Corny and comfortable; A memorable place
Twenty-three hours and 1,100 miles after leaving Baltimore in our overloaded minivan, en route to Colorado, we are somewhere in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. The name of the town is not important; no matter where you are in Iowa, you are in the middle, or on the edge, of a cornfield. We pass two roadside cafes: the Cornstalk Restaurant and the Feed Lot. The town's single police car has a bumper sticker noting that it is fueled by ethanol, a fuel made of -- what else? -- corn. Corn is serious business here in Iowa.
I decide to go for a "power walk" along the main street of Adair, Iowa, population 700. But people in Adair stroll. Exercise is for the cornfields, and it's not exercise, it's good, old-fashioned, hard work. I feel ridiculous and slow my pace.
The men drive pickup trucks. Every one of them wears a baseball cap, but there are no major-league team logos; seed and tractor companies are the only embroidery. The old-timers sport suspenders. The women are all blondes. Everyone waves as they pass. And in Adair ("The Town That Makes You Smile"), the silos and water towers are all painted bright yellow and sport giant, 20-foot-high, smiley faces. There are six churches, three of which are Lutheran.
I buy a cookbook from a gas station. (Another Iowa quirk: the amazing hodgepodge of items for sale in gas stations.) It is a collection of recipes from the ladies of the Methodist Church in Guernsey, Iowa, celebrating the town's centennial (1884-1984). The handful of salad recipes all have red or lime Jell-O in them. Cookies, cakes and pies take up the first 177 pages. In between the "Tater Tot" and "Wienie Beanie" casseroles -- which use plenty of cream of mushroom soup -- are inspirational thoughts ++ from the God-fearing farmers' wives of Guernsey.
The town library, across from the Adair News, is a sad, worn building of pale brick and peeling paint. The display window features pictures from the Adair High School classes of '36, '58 and '83. The students have names like Dale, Tommy Lee, Betty Jo and Helen. The brick-paved block begs for Opie and Andy Griffith and Aunt Bea to be among those waving hello.
I pass a well-ventilated trailer filled with pigs, in that transitory state between farm and slaughterhouse. They crowd together noisily, squealing, snorting, stinking; frankly, they only look like so much bacon.
The trailer is parked next to a warehouse full of hot tubs of recent manufacture. It seems risque, somehow, to think of hot tubs in Adair, Iowa. Is that what Iowans do when they are done farming in their cornfields, praying in their churches, strolling along Main Street?
Tractors are parked casually alongside the family car in front driveways. Bicycles of all sizes adorn front lawns; none are locked. Little kids in swimsuits scurry with towels draped across their necks to the town park for an afternoon spent with friends among the sprinklers.
This is the kind of town you'd like to spend the Fourth of July in.
Galia Berry lives in Baltimore.
Eddie Applefeld, Baltimore
"We stayed at the Grand Hotel, located on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. First built in 1887, this 330-room hotel sits on Lake Huron and has a no-tipping policy. Men must have jackets for dinner. Bring walking shoes for an island tour."
Ronald Kodlick, Baltimore
"Only 47 kilometers south of Madrid is the lovely village of Aranjuez. Spanish royalty chose this picturesque village on the meandering river Tajo to construct their summer residences between 1655 and 1851. Luxurious statues, fountains, gardens and plazas grace the palace and other grand royal residences."